Politics Lawmakers eye private moon missions

01:12  08 september  2017
01:12  08 september  2017 Source:   The Hill

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A House panel on Thursday met to discuss ways to boost private missions to the moon . Lawmakers from both parties on the House Science Subcommittee on Space expressed support for private lunar expeditions, but raised concerns about property rights and the role of NASA.

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Lawmakers eye private moon missions© Provided by The Hill Lawmakers eye private moon missions A House panel on Thursday met to discuss ways to boost private missions to the moon.

Lawmakers from both parties on the House Science Subcommittee on Space expressed support for private lunar expeditions, but raised concerns about property rights and the role of NASA.

Representatives from private space companies Blue Origin LLC, Moon Express Inc. and Astrobotic, testified about their plans.

"It's time for America to return to the moon - this time to stay," said Bretton Alexander of Blue Origin in an opening statement. Blue Origin was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and is "committed to building the next generation of space transportation infrastructure."

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Destination Moon : Private Spaceflight Companies Eye Lunar Bases. By Mike Wall, Space.com Senior Writer | May 23, 2013 04:06pm ET. Golden Spike, for example, aims to begin launching two-person missions to the lunar surface and back by 2020. And several different firms, such as Shackleton

Lawmakers are working on a permanent solution, but it likely won't be ready in time for Moon Express' 2017 mission . Moon Express' lander is just the first of many deep-space private missions to come.

The lunar poles contain vast amounts of water, which can be used as clean rocket fuel when broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, the executives told lawmakers.

Robert Richards, founder and CEO of Moon Express, referred to lunar water as "the oil of the solar system."

Moon Express, Inc. is planning a maiden voyage for 2018.

"Strategically, we should view the poles of the moon as the next Persian Gulf," added Dr. George Sowers, a space transportation expert from the Colorado School of Mines. Richards said the moon could become a "gas station in the sky" enabling further space exploration.

Sowers encouraged Congress to act, warning of "space pirates" in the absence of laws on property rights.

The American Space Free Enterprise Act, introduced in June, would create a single authority for American lunar missions at the Office of Space Commerce.

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But Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) said lawmakers still have "a lot of work to do" in terms of safely regulating space travel and economic development.

Rep. Ami Bera (Calif.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, urged the companies to balance plans to develop the moon with research and caution.

Some conservative lawmakers worried about too much government interference with private space companies.

Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) said Congress should not "corrupt the market."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) suggested using tax breaks rather than direct subsidies to "unleash our entrepreneurs" and encourage space commerce.

Lawmakers also weighed the role of NASA, urging cooperation.

Two of the companies currently worth with NASA. Moon Express and Astrobotic participate in the agency's Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) program, a 2014 initiative encouraging the development of private-sector lunar landers for commercial purposes.

CATALYST provides Moon Express and Astrobotic with access to technical expertise, access to facilities and loaned equipment.

Blue Origin is also seeking a public-private partnership with the agency.

The hearing was only the latest as lawmakers increasingly turn their attention to the private space industry.

In April, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, held a hearing on ways to ease regulations and boost commercial investment in space.


S.Korea says Moon and Trump agree on need for stronger N.Korea sanctions .
South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to exert stronger pressure through sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear and missile tests, South Korea's presidential office said following a telephone call between the two leaders on Sunday. "The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation, and exert stronger and practical sanctions on North Korea so that it realizes provocative actions leads to further diplomatic isolation and economic pressure," Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a televised briefing.

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